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Who Am I and What Do I Teach?

Kevin O'Brien as J.R.R. Tolkien on the "Hobbit Hole" set for the television special Frodo's Journey.

Who am I?  Here are some clues ...Host of the television series The Theater of the Wordon EWTN.Founder and Artistic Director of The Theater of the Word Incorporated.Actor, writer and producer of interactive comedy murder mysteries, which are performed all over the country.Author of two books, The Church of the Kevin(listed as one of the Best Books of 2010) and An Actor Bows - Show Biz, God and the Meaning of Life.Featured in My Name is Lazarus.Wrote the introductions to Stage Rightand The Persons of the Drama of the Gospel.Writer of a regular column for the international magazine the St. Austin Review.Creator of Grunky (whatever that is).Producer and performer of over 40 audio books.Creative genius behind The O'Brien Family Singers.Instructor for Homeschool Connections and Chesterton Academy.

The Theology of Super Heroes

"I'm Batman" - Mr. O'Brien

Superheroes have been part of pop culture since the first Superman comic book in 1938.  They have captivated America’s attention in books, movies and television shows - but why?  This course will take a look at the lessons to be learned from super hero stories.  We will evaluate how superheroes are a form of modern mythology, continuing the tradition of ancient myths.  And more importantly, we will examine the Christian elements in these stories of heroism and sacrifice.  We will also identify the virtues that the heroes possess and we will talk about how to emulate them.

Sign up for the live or recorded course at Homeschool Connections.

The Drama of Socrates

The above video is Kevin O'Brien's play Socrates Meets Jesus, performed at the Society of GK Chesterton Conference in Massachusetts.

Plato wrote the most important works of philosophy in the ancient world.  He presents his ideas as a series of dialogues between his teacher Socrates and various characters of opposing viewpoints who argue with Socrates.  Plato’s dialogues are mini-plays - and in this course we will read adaptations of the dialogues aloud in class, with Kevin O’Brien (playwright and lead actor of Socrates Meets Jesus) playing the role of Socrates - and students (if they wish) playing the various characters.  This will be a fun and engaging way of learning Plato, Socrates - and the perennial philosophy that St. Augustin saw as pointing to Christ.

Sign up for the live or recorded course at Homeschool Connections.

American History as Seen through the Musical "Hamilton"

Kevin O'Brien as King George in his interactive comedy murder mystery, The Hamilton Homicide.
The Broadway musical Hamilton is groundbreaking, exciting, thrilling - and historically accurate!  Using the musical as our guide, we will explore the story it tells of early American history and the visionary dream of our founding fathers.  We will also explore the deeply Christian elements of the story told by Lin Manuel Miranda. 
Sign up for the live or recorded course at Homeschool Connections.

As You Like It

As You Like It is a comedy classic and one of Shakespeare’s most complex works.  It has a little bit of everything - romance, adventure, sophisticated humor, unsophisticated humor, rebellious teens, a love story and some of the most amazing poetry ever written.  In addition, Shakespeare confronts the big question: what is the meaning of life - and how can a teenage girl find it in a world that features domineering fathers, unfaithful suitors, and fools who are wiser than wise men?

Much Ado about Nothing is one of the classic comedies of Shakespeare.  It features the sparkling battle of wits between Beatrice and Benedick, two star-crossed lovers who act as if they can’t stand each other, but secretly are in love with each other!  The interplay between the humor of the main plot and the tragic elements of the sub-plot are fascinating, and bring out clearly one of the main themes of the play: how can irresponsible boys turn into mature young men?  This play also explores issues that are r…

The Chronicles of Narnia

The Chronicles of Narnia is a masterpiece of Christian children’s literature. We will read all seven books in the series over a two-semester period, discovering the Christian themes and examining character development and symbolism. This will be an exciting course with fun reading that will strengthen your faith!

Sign up for the live or recorded course at Homeschool Connections.

Living Scripture

The aim of this course is to remedy the Scriptural illiteracy of the average Catholic, even the average devout Catholic. We will read and discuss various sections of the Bible throughout the semester, allowing the Holy Spirit to bring God’s Word to life in us and to reveal to us how everything in God’s Word is indeed “living” and how everything, even in the Old Testament, points to Jesus. Peter Kreeft says you don’t read the Bible; the Bible reads you. He also says the Bible is “God’s love letter to us.” In this course, we will learn to read that love letter from God and we will end up being moved by it. Sign up for the live or recorded course at Homeschool Connections.
Click here for my Living Scripture videos that are posted on YouTube!

Acting Monologues

In this course, Kevin O’Brien, a professional actor of stage and screen, audiobooks and television, will coach Middle School students in brief dramatic and comedic monologues. Some will be from plays that exist; some can be monologues that the students write themselves. Each student will get a chance to memorize and perform in class three monologues of no more than three minutes each: from a comedy, a tragedy and a play of the student’s choosing. Mr. O’Brien will coach each student in acting technique, giving notes and instruction. Sign up for the live or recorded course at Homeschool Connections.

Short Stories

We will read a variety of short stories from a number of authors, including Mark Twain, Edgar Allen Poe, Nathaniel Hawthorne, Ring Lardner, O Henry, Charles Dickens, Shirley Jackson, and more.  We will discuss one short story in class each day - for a total of eight stories! We will analyze the stories on the basis of plot, character development, and theme. And we will look at the prose styles of the various authors. Each story should take no more than about an hour to read. So, this will be a fun and educational class, perfect for the summer! Sign up for the live or recorded course at Homeschool Connections.

I Hate Poetry!

Is it possible to go from hating poetry to loving poetry? Is it possible to be able to tell a good poem from a bad one? How about the poems we write but are too scared to show anybody else? Are they any good? Can we make them better? All of these questions and more will be answered in this two-week summer course that seeks to make poetry fun and understandable! We will closely read selections from the greatest poets of all time: Dante, Shakespeare, Donne, Blake, Dickinson, Poe, Frost, Tolkien, Chesterton and Belloc - and we'll try our hand at writing our own. Roses are Red / Violets are Green / If you want a cool class / Then this one is keen!

Sign up for the live or recorded course at Homeschool Connections.

King David

The story of King David in the Old Testament is the most exciting adventure story in all of the Bible! And it shows how God the Father was preparing the way for the Savior who was to come a thousand years after David - Jesus Christ. In this class, we’ll study David’s story and we’ll see how Jesus becomes the “Son of David” at the Incarnation. This is one of the most thrilling stories ever told: there are giants and battles, shepherds and kings, betrayal and close friendships - and all of it prepares the People of God for Our Savior! Sign up for the live or recorded course at Homeschool Connections.

Special Delivery - Letters among Friends

Fr. James V. Schall said the following about letters: “The letter is unique because, in its purest form, it deals with the person to whom we send it and with his or her relation to us. … The letter is a claim against time and distance … a letter is also a preparation to see face to face, something that requires not just sight, but inner sight … So there continues to be, I am convinced, something of a solemnity, the solemnity of anticipated joy, about good letters.” In this course, we will study this most intimate form of non-fiction, from the Epistles of St. Paul to emails written by close friends. The greatest writers have written the greatest letters and from them, a deeper understanding of the world and of God can be opened up to us.

Sign up for the live or recorded course at Homeschool Connections.

The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings

Considered by many to be the greatest books of the 20th century, The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings are JRR Tolkien's masterpieces of epic fiction. Over the course of two semesters, we will examine The Hobbit and the three books of The Lord of the Rings in depth. We will answer the questions What are the Christian elements in these stories? How does this saga show us how to combat sin and be heroic in our own lives? What are the deeper meanings and symbols in Tolkien's overall mythology? How did Tolkien himself view his own work? Why did he call The Lord of the Rings "a fundamentally religious and Catholic work"? This course will be a complete immersion in the beauty and mystery of Middle Earth. And it will be a real adventure! We will rely not only on the texts of the books themselves but also on supplementary material, such as selections from The Letters of JRR Tolkien and The Silmarillion. Join Bilbo and Frodo on an epic adventure of classes that you won't…

One Act Plays and Playwriting

Mr. O’Brien has written and produced over 40 plays and screenplays. In this course, we’ll look at the challenge of short plays. We’ll read a few one-act plays live in class - with students playing parts if they’d like to! And we’ll try our hand at writing our own short plays - comedies, dramas, adventures and farces! Sign up for the live or recorded course at Homeschool Connections.

Science and the Faith

Doesn't science contradict the claims of religion? What about evolution? What about the faith most people put in science and how it's the only valid way of examining truth? In this intense six week course, we will take an introductory look at the relation between Science and the Catholic Faith. We'll also learn some fun facts about the history of science - and how priests and monks have made some of the greatest scientific discoveries in history! This course is an important primer for young Catholics interested in Science and in how Faith and Reason go together.

Sign up for the live or recorded course at Homeschool Connections.

Flannery O'Connor

“My audience are the people who think God is dead,” Flannery O’Connor said.  Her stories are shocking and sometimes violent for this very reason. O’Connor’s goal was to illustrate how the Grace of God operates in our lives. “All human nature vigorously resists grace because grace changes us and the change is painful,” O’Connor observed. We will read several stories and essays by O’Connor, along with some letters she wrote to friends, in which she displays her profound love of Christ and her deep understanding of how storytelling can bring people - in surprising ways - to the glory of God. This course is especially good for aspiring writers, as O’Connor often wrote on “the process of writing”, and we will examine her stories not merely for the meaning in them, but to understand more deeply their art and intricacy.
(Note that though these stories are deeply Catholic and perhaps the most profoundly Christian fiction of the 20th century, they can be disturbing; they also contain character…

Meet the Saint

Mr. O’Brien is known for his portrayals of famous saints, both on EWTN’s The Journey Home and in one-man stage shows that he has performed around the world. In this course, Mr. O’Brien will portray a different saint every day!  Students will “interview” each saint live in class by asking him questions, based on their study and research. Our Final Project will feature each student portraying his or her favorite saint - either live on webcam, or in a written paper.

Sign up for the live or recorded course at Homeschool Connections.

Love and the Meaning of Life

Here's an article I wrote for an upcoming issue of the St. Austin Review about my course Love and the Meaning of Life ...

Love and the Meaning of Life by Kevin O’Brien

I am teaching a course for Homeschool Connections called Love and the Meaning of Life.  I teach online using a webcam.  My students, from around the world, are intelligent and sensitive high school aged teens who are homeschooled - and who, much to my delight as a teacher, are eager to learn.

This course examines the most crucial question of all.  What is love?  And what is the Meaning of Life?  Obviously the Meaning of Life is Love, since God is Love (1 John 4:8).  But what is love?  And how are we to fulfill the great commandments of loving God and loving our neighbor?  And, as this issue of the St. Austin Review asks, what is “True Love” and how does “Passionate Reason” relate to “Romantic Feeling”?

In this course we examine Love and the Meaning of Lifeusing both fiction and non-fictionas our guides.  Here’s a brief re…

Humor in Literature

From light verse (funny poems) to the works of the American Humorists; from funny plays to comedies with serious themes, we will examine the role of Humor in literature - and in life!  Our Final Project will be a fun poem, story, play or video that each student will make, to be shared in class.

Sign up for the live or recorded course at Homeschool Connections.

Cultural Literacy for Catholics

(Literature) Cultural Literacy for Catholics
What are some of the basic things all educated Catholics should know?  Sadly, most Catholics don’t know them!  From the point of view of Literature and its impact on culture, these things basic “everybody should know this” stuff would include the issues we will examine in each class meeting …
The general scope of the Bible: what sort of books does it include and what’s the overall story it tells?  How does the biblical narrative fit in to the Great Empires of history? Who is Job and why do people say, “the patience of Job”? Who is Bathsheba and what happened to David because of her? Who is St. Paul and why does he writing fill so much of the New Testament? What is the Allegory of the Cave? Who were the Church Fathers and why are they so important? What were the Great Heresies and why should we care? What is a Troubadour and what do they have to do with St. Francis? What was the Reformation? What happens in Hamlet? Why do people think Descartes and Ka…